Individuals across the globe suffer from chronic diseases. People can prevent many of these diseases with a change in their diet. The BMJ reported in 2020 that 20 percent of the deaths occurring in the world today occur because of a person’s suboptimal diet. This means the diet is a greater risk factor than any other element, including tobacco. To combat this, many medical professionals look to food as medicine. They believe the right diet can help to prevent, manage, and treat illness.
How This Approach Is Changing Health Care
Researchers continue to show the power of food in preventing and treating disease, and many in the healthcare industry are taking notice. They are choosing not to prescribe medications, but are looking to integrate dietary changes into the treatment plans of their patients. However, the medical practitioner must take into consideration the unique needs of each patient, as a one-size-fits-all approach does not work here. Furthermore, hospitals must provide patients with a healthy diet that promotes their wellbeing, and the right Foodservice Company is helpful in achieving this goal.
Measures Every Person Can Take
Every person, regardless of their health or age, will benefit from cutting down on or eliminating processed foods from their diet. What foods are processed? Many people don’t realize any food that is no longer in its original state falls into the category of processed food. While some processed foods aren’t bad for humans, many contain excess fat, sugar, and salt. As the number of processed foods in a person’s diet increases, their risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity also rises.
A healthy diet, combined with adequate rest and regular exercise, benefits a person’s overall health and quality of life. Doctors need to emphasize this when they see patients and work with them to make conscious dietary choices. Medical schools must also make nutrition a key part of every doctor’s schooling.
At this time, 73 percent of medical schools in America don’t provide the minimum 25 hours of nutrition training that the National Academy of Sciences first recommended over 35 years ago. Eighty-six percent of medical residents don’t feel equipped to offer nutritional counseling to patients. They also don’t know the guidelines for diagnosing obesity and treating it.
Medical schools must increase training in nutritional counseling, so doctors are better equipped to help their patients. Nursing schools should do the same, as every person involved in health care needs to be prepared to help patients improve their health through lifestyle and dietary changes. However, they aren’t the only organizations that should emphasize the importance of nutrition in a person’s health.
The Government’s Role
Governments need to encourage healthy eating. At this time, governments provide industrial farming and food production operations with subsidies. These organizations produce processed foods that Americans eat. This money would be better spent if the government would provide it to small, local farms producing healthy foods without doing damage to the environment.
The United States government spends approximately $25 billion each year providing subsidies for these farming operations. Corn, soybean, and wheat farmers receive 70 percent of this money. Imagine if these funds went to small organic farms producing a variety of fruits and vegetables. According to food as medicine principles, this money should go to smaller operations for optimal results.
The Health Of Those Around The Patient
Healthcare professionals need a healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients, as the right diet ensures the professional is sharp and alert when treating patients. Family members provide support to patients being treated, and the right food helps to manage their stress and allows them to provide this support. Furthermore, healthy meals ensure every part of the hospital runs smoothly, as all employees have the energy and focus needed to carry out their required tasks. This is true of the hospital administrators and the janitors, along with everyone else employed in any medical practice.
Does Food As Medicine Work?
A community-based study conducted in Washington, DC, shows food as medicine can work. Fifty-four African Americans living in the city took part in five nutrition education classes over a three-month period. The classes, led by a nutritionist, were culturally tailored and focused on improving chronic disease risk factors and outcomes, diet, and health literacy.
Researchers saw significant improvements in all outcome measures. They found participants made better food choices, ate healthier, and learned new cooking skills, leading them to cook at home more often. Individuals can see the results in Current Developments in Nutrition. However, this is only one study focused on the benefits of food as medicine.
Healthcare organizations recognize the importance of a healthy diet for good overall health. They want to offer programs to help patients increase their fruit and vegetable consumption to further this goal. Food prescription initiatives serve as one way to do so. While food as medicine appears promising, nutritionists recognize more studies need to be conducted to learn the full effects of these measures.
The experts understand many studies didn’t offer comprehensive reports, experienced selection bias, and lacked control groups. Future studies need to be rigorously designed and benefit from validated data collection tools to determine the true effects of food as medicine. One area these studies must focus on is dietary intake. Learn more about the review and what it found by visiting The Journal of Nutrition.
Healthcare practitioners need support in providing food as medicine. Food retail settings can help reduce high rates of non-communicable diseases and address gaps in health care equity. In addition, the food retail settings can improve public health by providing nutritionists with a way to meet consumers where they are. The nutritionist works with the patient to make food decisions and provides programming that focuses on a healthy diet.
Everyone involved in health care must work to improve patient outcomes. This goes beyond the doctors and nurses directly treating patients to nutritionists, foodservice suppliers, providers, and more. When everyone comes together to reduce chronic disease in this country, society benefits. Learn more today about food as medicine and its many benefits. People often express surprise when they learn how a change in diet can alter a person’s health outcomes. Patient education goes a long way to improving outcomes, so this must be a focus today.